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Food For Thought: Turning Talk Into Action

With first-half planning already in the books, it’s time to turn talk into action for the second-half push.

This is when vendors determined and equipped to service the independent gourmet channel should have a clear edge.

Poll independent retailers about what they need most from their vendors to succeed this year and you might expect the popular answer to involve new products. Try again.

What many will tell you they need most from their vendors is more attention.

As basic as that sounds, it is a common refrain from independent kitchenware retailers. Just ask any storeowner who has been bumped from a Housewares Show meeting when Bed Bath & Beyond walked into the booth.

Sure, it could take years for an independent retailer to generate the equivalent of one order of business from a national chain. But with aggregate annual housewares sales from the independent gourmet channel accounting for some $200 million in 2014, according to the GOURMET INSIDER® State of the Industry report, there is ample potential business to command serious consideration from vendors willing and able to service the channel.

Independent owners often lament they sometimes feel like an afterthought at vendor headquarters. Reps remain a vital, face-to-face link between vendors and store operators in the gourmet kitchenware channel. But with multiple lines in their sample bags, it’s challenging for even the most diligent and deft
of reps to deliver the first-hand guidance on a given line that a vendor can.

It may be taxing for vendors to devote the direct resources and detailed attention needed to make independent retailers a higher priority. But it can be a rewarding exercise at a time when every order, even the slimmest, is becoming more precious.

Vendors have access to platforms that facilitate more frequent and direct interaction with gourmet retailers — more trade shows, buying group programs, wholesale e-commerce portals and dedicated business-to-business resources, such as GOURMET INSIDER®.

The gourmet channel, for years, has been a focal point for many upstart and established niche players in the kitchenware business. Now, an increasing number of broadly distributed suppliers are craving a bigger slice of the independent channel as an alternative route to sales growth.

Credit vendors big and small that have aligned their organizations and strategies to heed the call of independent kitchenware retailers, embracing the store-by-store nuances that make the channel a challenge to manage.

Meanwhile, independent retailers, while rightfully demanding of extra attention, need to remain patient. An industry reshaped by mass retailing constantly tests the organizational attention spans of most vendors.

Attention is a two-way street. Just as vendors expect reps to fight doggedly for what could be the rep’s lowest-volume producer, independent retailers are expected to keep an open mind to every line brought through their doors. Most big lines started small.

And every small retailer deserves a chance to feel big when it comes to the attention from vendors they require to succeed. We’ve reached the point of the year when the actions of these vendors will speak louder than their words.



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